In a surprise, promoter Sampson Lewkowicz of Sampson Boxing on Friday won the purse bid for the fight between unified junior welterweight world titlist Josh Taylor and mandatory challenger Apinun Khongsong.
Lewkowicz, Khongsong's co-promoter, bid $1.32 million to gain promotional rights to the bout, beating the only other bidder, new Taylor promoter Top Rank, which offered $1.26 million, at the auction at the IBF offices in Springfield, New Jersey.
Lewkowicz told ESPN he will put the fight on within the 90-day window mandated by the IBF and that the fight likely would take place in the United Kingdom.
Taylor is entitled to 65% of the winning bid ($858,000) and Khongsong gets the remaining 35% ($462,000). Lewkowicz must send a contract to Top Rank within 10 days.
"I'm very happy to win this. I will send the contract to Top Rank shortly," Lewkowicz said. "The only one to ever beat me in a purse bid was [Japanese promoter Akihiko] Honda and he never produced the fight. I believe that Taylor is a great champion, but I will not be surprised when Khongsong wins, just like I wasn't surprised last week when [Jeiso]) Rosario won. Nobody believes me, but I represent the best fighters on earth."
Lewkowicz also promotes Rosario, who authored a major upset last Saturday when he knocked out Julian "J Rock" Williams in the fifth round in Williams' hometown of Philadelphia to take his unified junior middleweight world title.
Lewkowicz's purse bid victory does come as a surprise because not only does he have to pay the other side most of the money but because the fight will be the first for Taylor since signing with Top Rank on Jan. 9. Top Rank expected to promote Taylor's next fight and introduce him to the ESPN audience as the company attempts to build toward an undisputed 140-pound world title fight with two-belt titlist Jose Ramirez, who is also with Top Rank, late this year.
Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti represented the company at the purse bid.
"Sampson said he will do the fight, and we'll wait and see what the details are," Moretti told ESPN. "If he wants to pay for that type of fight then God bless him."
While Taylor (16-0, 12 KOs), 29, of Scotland, has emerged as one of the best fighters in the world after unifying two belts with an action-packed majority decision win over Regis Prograis on Oct. 26 in the final of the World Boxing Super Series, Khongsong (16-0, 13 KOs), 23, of Thailand, is as obscure a fighter as it gets. Khongsong has fought 15 of his fights in his home country, one in Japan and has faced extraordinarily low-level opposition. Eight of his opponents have had records of .500 or less or were making their professional debuts.
Still, Lewkowicz, who has a tremendous track record for evaluating boxing talent -- among others, he was instrumental in bringing Manny Pacquiao and former middleweight world champion Sergio Martinez to the United States when they were largely unknown -- is very high on Khongsong, whom he signed to a co-promotional deal with Thailand's Jimmy Chaichotchuang of Kiat Kreerin Promotions earlier this month.
"Jimmy is very loyal and honest and I'm very proud to be helping him represent the best fighter from Thailand in all of boxing," Lewkowicz said. "Khongsong is a very hard puncher and not many fighters will be able to take his punches, especially at 140 pounds."